Friday Speaker Series: Scott Anderbois, Brown University

Subject: Non-deterministic QUD downdating: evidence from Tagalog naman

Abstract: The Questions Under Discussion (QUD) framework has proven a useful tool in the analysis of a wide range of pragmatic phenomena across languages. While the basic concept of the QUD as a component of discourse contexts is well established, there remain important differences in the specific formal principles governing them and the ways in which natural language makes reference to them. Roberts (1996) argues for a particular formalization of QUD theory based on (i) mostly theoretical arguments about the structure of dialogues, and (ii) the conventional contribution of intonational focus in English. Subsequent research has provided additional empirical arguments based on other intonational patterns such as English contrastive topic (Büring 2003) as well as discourse particles such as German überhaupt (Rojas-Esponda 2014).In this talk, I give these same two kinds of arguments in support of a version of QUD theory which differs from Roberts and subsequent work by allowing the removal of questions from the QUD (QUD downdating) to be governed by non-deterministic pragmatic reasoning rather than being automatic. The intuitive argument, (i), comes from consideration of various sorts of follow-up questions in English dialogues, which we show do not receive intuitive analyses with Roberts' stricter QUD downdating principles. The more empirical argument on comes from the Tagalog discourse particle naman. While often described as a marker of contrast, we show that naman has a variety of contrastive and non-contrastive uses across and within sentence types. To capture this range of uses, we argue that naman uniformly encodes that the speaker regards the immediately prior QUD as having already been resolved, with the superficially different uses of naman being due to different current QUDs the sentence containing naman might address. Crucially, these include not just sister questions (contrastive uses), but also identical questions (obviousness uses) and subquestions, in line with the proposed QUD theory.

Bio: Scott Anderbois is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Cognitive, Linguistic, and Psychological Sciences (CLPS) at Brown University. He received his Ph.D. from the University of California at Santa Cruz in 2011, specializing in semantics and pragmatics. Empirically, he explores these issues in part through primary fieldwork on understudied languages, including Yucatec Maya (a Mayan language spoken throughout the Yucatán peninsula) and Tagalog (an Austronesian language spoken in the Philippines). He is also leading a project with Wilson Silva documenting A'ingae (Kofán, Cofán).

Friday, November 3 at 3:30pm to 5:00pm

Poulton Hall, 230
1421 37th St., N.W., Washington

Event Type

Academic Events


Georgetown College, Linguistics


Scott Anderbois

Open to the public and the press?


Event Contact Name

Jennie Brusstar

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